Having been the scene of so much flood devastation, the locals of Broadwater, NSW, held a small celebration to thank the soldiers that helped them get back on their feet.
CAPTION: Australian Army officer Lieutenant Brook Wright (centre left) from 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, presents Broadwater, locals Annette and Trevor Walsh with a unit flag. Story by Major Jesse Robilliard. Photo by Corporal Jonathan Goedhart.
A barbecue was held at the Broadwater Riley’s Hill Community Hall to celebrate the help the soldiers from Alpha Company, 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (8/9 RAR), provided when the town needed it.
Karina McKey, a volunteer at the Broadwater Riley’s Hill Community Hall, said the occasion was bittersweet.
“We’re saying goodbye to our Army,” Ms McKey said.
“The presence of the Army was hugely helpful because we had no access to technology at that time, people couldn’t use Google maps.
“Because the soldiers from 8/9 RAR became such familiar faces they became critical to our recovery.”
Locals mingled with the soldiers and ate pizza while members of the Australian Army band from the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, played music.
The record flooding that rocked the Northern Rivers came as a shock to the small town of Broadwater with many homes inundated.
Ms McKey said the town doesn’t normally endure flooding.
“Everyone talks about the Army bringing muscle and that’s absolutely true, and these guys have done more than that,” she said.
“The really important thing that they’ve done is that they’ve turned some rudimentary systems that we setup in the early hours into quite complex data collection points.
“They’ve done everything we’ve asked, and what they’ve really done is manage our workflow, so we had a central point for both civilian volunteers and Army to be able to bounce in and out on the next job because we were able to complete tasks in such an efficient way.”
“We got on the ground and went straight to work, we engaged with the community and stripped out flood debris from the nearby houses,” Sergeant Blows said.
“As a platoon sergeant, myself and one of the other corporals created the Command Post within the food distribution hub in the community hall here.
“We organised the food in and out of the community hall and setup a small grocery food store.”
Soldiers from 8/9 RAR are moving to the Byron Bay-Tweed Shire region to continue their efforts on Operation Flood Assist.
Sergeant Blows felt mixed emotions about leaving.
“It feels rewarding, it’s what I signed up to do, to react,” he said.
“Just to give back to the community, to be of service while wearing the Australian flag on my shoulder, it makes me very proud.
“Ever since we have been here they have taken us underneath their wing and made us part of their community.”
Ms McKey said the Broadwater residents will likely take a pause before continuing on the next stage of the town’s recovery.